Which Wyoming Cowboy wore it best? No. 15
CHEYENNE -- Do you ever see a number on a Wyoming football jersey and think of all the great players to wear it? Yeah, me too. In this daily series, I’ll give you my take on which Pokes’ football player was the best ever to don each number. The criteria are simple: How did he perform at UW? What kind of impact did he have on the program?
No. 15 – Shawn Wiggins
Wide receiver, 1987-90, Robbins, Ill.
Résumé in Laramie
Shawn Wiggins finished his four-year career at UW with 119 receptions, 2,029 yards, 17.1 per catch and 10 touchdowns. During his senior season in 1990, Wiggins led all receivers with 58 catches for 1,018 yards. He averaged 17.6 yards per catch and hauled in six touchdown passes from Tom Corontzos. That season is still the 10th best from a wide receiver in school history.
Not many Wyoming football players can say they played in three bowl games.
Shawn Wiggins can.
The 5-foot, 9-inch, 165-pound wide receiver played in back-to-back Holiday Bowls in 1987-88 and the Copper Bowl in 1990 under head coach Paul Roach.
The final bowl game in Phoenix almost didn’t happen for Wiggins – or any of the other black players on the Cowboys football team.
When Arizona voters turned down two proposals to create a paid holiday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the NFL threatened to pull the Super Bowl from Sun Devil Stadium in 1993. Even college teams debated whether to take part in sporting events in the desert.
Wyoming was one of them. It came down to a vote. The “I’s” won.
Wiggins and the Cowboys took on California in the New Year’s Eve contest. It was Wiggins’ final collegiate game before he was selected in the ninth round of the 1991 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns.
''Not everyone gets the chance to play in a college bowl game,'' Wiggins told the Chicago Tribune in 1990. ''Look, the NFL plays in Phoenix a lot of weekends. The University of Arizona has black guys playing on the football team. It`s a shame how they use college athletics in a political role. It`s like they`re trying to cause confusion and break up a team.
''We respect the fact they should honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. So, we will wear a patch. There have been conflicting moments. It`s tough for the black guys.''
Wiggins was a speed demon in the slot for the Pokes. He ran a 4.3-second 40-yard dash. He was a perfect compliment for other wide outs like Ryan Yarborough, Anthony Sargent, James Loving, Freddie Dussett, Melvin Wells and Ted Gilmore.
He could even throw a ball if need be. Just ask BYU.
In what turned out to be the winning points the Pokes needed; Wiggins found Dewaine Jones streaking across the end zone of Cougar Stadium. The only problem was – this was supposed to be an extra-point attempt from UW kicker, Greg Worker.
Wiggins, who was the holder for kicks, turned a busted play into a 22-14 lead late in the third quarter with a quick decision to pick up the ball and find a receiver. That was a heads-up play, especially for a freshman.
Wyoming overcame a 14-0 deficit in the first half and cruised to three straight touchdowns in the third from Craig Burnett. The Pokes would hold on to thwart a BYU two-point conversion attempt late to hush the largest home crowd in BYU history – 65,921 – and take control of their own destiny in the WAC title race.
Wyoming 29, BYU 27
“I think BYU was shocked with that play,” Wiggins told reporters after the game. “They didn’t expect it. I didn’t either.”
That was the last time a Wyoming team would win in Provo.
The Cowboys went on to finish the season 10-3 under the first-year head coach, Roach. They won the WAC championship. They played Iowa in the Holiday Bowl, falling 20-19 in heartbreaking fashion. The 1987 Cowboys were enshrined in the UW Athletics Hall of Fame in 2018.
Wiggins and the Cowboys returned to San Diego the following season where they were blasted by Barry Sanders and the 12th-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys, 62-14. And in that Copper Bowl the Pokes decided to play in, they fell to the Golden Bears, 17-15.
Wiggins is now a sixth-grade teacher in the Natrona County School District in Casper.
Tom Wilkinson was under center for the Pokes from 1963-65. He finished his three years under Lloyd Eaton, passing for 3,236 yards and 23 touchdowns. He rushed for seven more scores.
Wilkinson never lost to Colorado State or BYU as the Cowboys quarterback.
Raised in Greybull, Wilkinson was a steady signal caller for the Pokes. It wasn’t until he got to the Canadian Football League that the 5-foot, 11-inch gunslinger got to show what he could really do. He led his teams to six Grey Cup championships. Wilkinson shared QB duties with NFL Hall of Famer, Warren Moon, in Edmonton. The Eskimos won four straight Grey Cups between 1978 and 1981.
Wilkinson was named CFL MVP in 1974, the MVP of the Grey Cup in 1978, and won the Nicklin Memorial Trophy, given to the best player in the Western Division, in both of those seasons.
Wilkinson was inducted into the CFL Hall of Fame in 1987. In 2012, Wilkinson was featured on a collector’s stamp in Canada, celebrating the 100th year of the Grey Cup.
Who else wore No. 15
Doug Sikorski (QB), Steve Trusso (QB), Reggie Elmore (DB), Rob Levin (S), Jabuliani Smith-Freeman (DB), John Davis (QB), Matt Swanson (QB), Tyson Dunham (P), Kyle Jacobo (QB/WR), Ben Durbin (LB), Eric Nzeocha (LB), Nick Smith (QB), Jaylon Watson (LB), Levi Williams (QB)
- All available rosters and photos courtesy of the University of Wyoming. If we missed one, please email Cody@7220sports.com.